The Newt, New College’s JCR magazine, has come under severe criticism after publishing a joke accused of trivialising sexual violence.
The magazine, which has a readership of 2,000, published the joke, which read: ‘No I haven’t punched a girl during sex. But never say never’ on page eight.
This joke has been accused of “reinforcing sexist attitudes” and damaging the reputation of the College, especially among potential applicants.
Chris Green, director of The White Ribbon anti-violence campaign argued “the inappropriate page header of the ‘newspaper’ which is delivered to every pigeonhole in New College reinforces sexist and controlling disrespectful attitudes which students are already excessively exposed to. Only a foolhardy publisher would put such an offensive quote into a newspaper. The publishers would do well to offer a page to an anti-violence organisation to explain the issues as a minimum response.”
One New College student (who wished to remain anonymous) condemned the paper’s actions, stating “The Newt is hardly The Times and therefore as a college publication, the magazine is naturally light-hearted in tone. However, there is no justification for the trivialisation of sexual violence. By projecting sensitive and serious issues in such a casual manner it encourages and make such attitudes towards women permissible”.
These comments come just a week after the launch of the #NotGuilty campaign in Oxford, which aims to raise awareness of sexual assault among undergraduates. The campaign, which was started by a 20-year-old Keble College student, has gained national media attention.
Speaking to The Oxford Student, New College Welfare Officer Katy Sheridan affirmed that the college remained committed to tackling sexual violence, saying, “At New College we have a very active and appropriately trained welfare team who take extremely seriously the importance of supporting survivors of sexual violence. The welfare team have undertaken first responder and peer support training.
“New College JCR in no way endorses the trivialisation of sexual violence; such an attitude grossly misrepresents the strongly supportive community we have at New College”.
The Newt has also come under fire in the past for comments on an under-21 rugby club social held in the college. The magazine was also accused of anti-Semitism in an incident in 2008, following an article entitled “Jewish economic policy” which was said to be “deeply offensive” and has since been removed from the internet.
With a reported 400,000 women sexually assaulted each year, the comments issued by the magazine have exacerbated the ongoing debate relating to the necessity of a radical change in how sexual assault is perceived by the justice system, communities and the individuals involved.